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SECOND DIVISION

REPUBLIC OF THE,

G.R. No. 186166

Petitioner,

Present:
- versus -

CORONA, CJ,

JOSE T. CHING represented by his


Attorney-in-fact, ANTONIO V.
CHING,
Respondent.

CARPIO, J., Chairperson,


LEONARDO-DE CASTRO,
PERALTA, and
MENDOZA, JJ.
Promulgated:
October 20, 2010

X -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- X

DECISION
MENDOZA, J.:
In this Petition for Review on certiorari under Rule 45, the Republic of the
Philippines, represented by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), assails the
November 28, 2008 Decision[1] of the Court of Appeals (CA), in CA-G.R. CV No.
00318-MIN, reversing the December 3, 2002 Resolution[2] of the Regional Trial Court,
Butuan City, Branch 2 (RTC), disallowing the Application for Registration of Title of
respondent Jose Ching, represented by his Attorney-in-Fact, Antonio Ching, in Land
Registration Case No. N-290.
THE FACTS
On August 9, 1999, respondent Jose Ching, represented by his Attorney-in-Fact, Antonio
Ching, filed a verified Application for Registration of Title covering a parcel of land
with improvements identified as Lot 1, SGS-13-000037-D, being a portion of Lot 2738,
GSS-10-000043, before the RTC. The subject lot is a consolidation of three (3)

contiguous lots situated in Banza, , Agusan del Norte, with an area of 58,229 square
meters. The first parcel of land is covered by Tax Declaration No. 96GR-11-003-0556A; the second parcel by Tax Declaration No. 96GR-11-003-0444-I; and the third parcel
by Tax Declaration No. 96GR-11-003-0537-A. In support of his application, respondent
attached the (a) Sketch plan;[3] (b) Technical description;[4] (c) Tracing Cloth of Plan of
Portion of Lot 2738, Gss-10-000043, which is a Segregation Plan of Portion of Lot
2738, Gss-10-0000431, as surveyed for Jose T. Ching and duly approved by the Bureau
of Land DENR Region XIII on July 08, 1998 covering the subject land;[5] and (d)
Special Power of Attorney executed by Jose T. Ching authorizing Antonio V. Ching, Jr.
to file an application for title over the land.[6]
Respondent alleged that on , he purchased the subject land from the late former
governor and as evidenced by a Deed of Sale of Unregistered Lands.[7]
Initially, the RTC, acting as a land registration court, ordered respondent to show cause
why his application for registration of title should not be dismissed for his failure to state
the current assessed value of the subject land and his non-compliance with the last
paragraph of Section 17 of Presidential Decree (P.D.) No. 1529.[8]
Accordingly, on , respondent filed a Verified Amended Application[9] which the RTC
found to be sufficient in form and substance. The case was set for initial hearing on .[10]
On , the OSG duly deputized the Provincial Prosecutor of Agusan del Norte to appear on
behalf of the State.[11] Thereafter, on , the OSG filed an Opposition to the application
for registration of title. Specifically, the OSG alleged:
(1) That neither the applicant nor his predecessors-in-interest
have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession
and occupation of the land in question since June 12, 1945 or prior
thereto [Sec. 48 (b) C.A. 141, as amended by P.D. 1073];
(2) That the muniments of title and/or any tax declarations and
tax payments receipts of applicant attached to or alleged in the
application, do not constitute competent and sufficient evidence of
abona fide acquisition of the land applied for or of his open,
continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of the
land in the concept of owner since June 12, 1945 or prior and the tax
declaration and tax payment receipts appear not to be genuine and
are of recent vintage;
(3) That the claim of ownership in fee simple on the basis of
Spanish title or grant can no longer be availed of by the applicant

who have failed to file an appropriate application for registration


within six (6) months from 16 February 1976 under P.D. No. 892 as
the instant application appears to have been filed on December 17,
1998; and
(4) That the parcels of land applied for are portions of the
public domain belonging to the Republic of the not subject to private
appropriation.[12]

On , the Department of Environment and Natural Resources likewise filed its


opposition to the application.
On , the RTC resolved to dismiss the respondents application for registration.[13] The
dispositive portion reads:
IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the court resolves to dismiss as it
hereby dismisses the instant application for registration of title for
insufficiency of evidence.
SO ORDERED.

The RTC was not convinced that respondents Deed of Sale sufficiently established that
he was the owner in fee simple of the land sought to be registered. The RTC wrote
[e]vidence only shows that the applicant and his vendor as predecessor-in-interest have
been in open, peaceful, notorious and exclusive possession starting from 1965. Among
the tax declarations marked Exhibits R to R-7 includes the oldest one marked Exhibit R7 shown in the back lower portion that it was effective beginning the year 1980, and
among the tax declarations marked Exhibit S to S-8 inclusive, the oldest one marked
Exhibit S-8 is effective in the year 1980 and among the Tax Declaration marked Exhibit
T to T-7 inclusive, the oldest one marked Exhibit T-7 shows that it began to be effective
in the year 1980 also. In the Certification (Exhibit U) issued by the Office of the City
Treasurer of Butuan shows that the payment of the realty taxes paid for the 3 parcels
started only in the year 1980.[14]
Respondent filed a motion for reconsideration and a subsequent supplemental motion for
reconsideration with attached additional tax declarations. The RTC denied both motions
in its December 11, 2003 Resolution[15] stating that it could not consider the additional
tax declarations attached in the Supplemental Motion for Reconsideration as these were
not formally offered in evidence. The RTC also noted that the additional documents
were mere photocopies and would not have any probative value because they were not

in accord with the requirements under Act 496[16] and P.D. 1529[17] that only original
muniments of title or copies thereof must be presented.
Respondent appealed the RTC ruling before the CA. Respondent claimed that the RTC
erred in dismissing the application for registration of title for insufficiency of evidence
and in failing to consider the additional tax declarations attached in his Supplemental
Motion for Reconsideration.[18]
On , the CA reversed the RTCs earlier resolution and granted respondents application
for registration of title.[19] The decretal portion of said decision reads:
WHEREFORE, the appealed Decision of the Regional Trial Court,
Branch 2, acting as land registration court, dismissing the
application for registration of title for insufficiency of evidence is
hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The Appellants application for
land registration is GRANTED.
SO ORDERED.[20]

The CA ruled that the RTC erred in failing to consider the additional documents
attached in respondents Supplemental Motion for Reconsideration. The CA ratiocinated:
Clearly from the foregoing tax declarations which all went
unchallenged and formed part of the record of the instant case, it
could clearly be seen that the same parcels of land had been in
possession of the petitioner-appellants (respondent) predecessors-ininterest since 1948 until these parcels were purchased by him on 10
April 1979. Since the applicant and his predecessors-in-interest had
been in possession of the land for more than thirty (30) years
continuously, peacefully, adversely, publicly and to the exclusion of
everybody, the same was in the concept of owners. This also means that
petitioner-appellant is no longer required to prove that the property in question is
classified as alienable and disposable land of the public domain.[21] The long and
continuous possession thereof by petitioner-appellant and his
predecessors-in-interest since 1948 or a total period of fifty-one (51)
years before the application was filed on converted the property to a
private one. This is but a mere reiteration of the established rule that
alienable public land held by a possessor, personally, or through his
predecessor-in-interest, openly, continuously and exclusively for the
prescribed statutory period of thirty (30) years under the Public Land
Act, as amended, is converted to private property by the mere lapse
or completion of said period,ipso jure.[22]

Hence, this petition.[23]

In its Memorandum,[24] the OSG submits the following


ISSUES
I
The Court of Appeals erred in reversing and setting aside the
Resolution dated December 23, 2002 of the Land Registration Court
denying the BELATED submission of tax declarations which the herein
respondent merely attached in its supplemental motion for
reconsideration and which were NOT FORMALLY OFFERED in
evidence during the trial of the case, as required under Section 34 of
Rule 132 of the 1997 Revised Rules of Civil Procedure;
II
The Court of Appeals erred in reversing and setting aside the
Resolution dated December 23, 2002 of the Land Registration Court
denying the admission of MERE PHOTOCOPIES of tax declarations
which have not been verified or authenticated, in flagrant violation of
the requirements of both Act 496 (Land Registration Act) and PD 1529
(Property Registration Act) providing that only ORIGINAL
muniments of titles or original copies thereof shall be filed;
III
The Court of Appeals erred in reversing and setting aside the subject
Resolution of the Land Registration Court which denied the
application for registration on the ground that the respondent herein
failed to prove that the subject land is alienable and disposable land of
the public domain and have been in possession for the length of time
and manner and concept prescribed in Section 48(b) of the CA 141 as
amended.[25]

The petition is meritorious.


Sec. 14(1) of P.D. 1529[26] in relation to Section 48(b) of Commonwealth Act 141, as
amended by Section 4 of P.D. 1073,[27] provides:
SEC. 14. Who may apply.The following persons may file in the
proper Court of First Instance [now Regional Trial Court] an
application for registration of title to land, whether personally or
through their duly authorized representatives:

(1) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-ininterest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious
possession and occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the
public domain under a bona fide claim of ownership since June 12,
1945, or earlier.
Xxx
Section 48. The following described citizens of the Philippines,
occupying lands of the public domain or claiming to own any such
lands or an interest therein, but whose titles have not been perfected
or completed, may apply to the Court of First Instance [now Regional
Trial Court] of the province where the land is located for
confirmation of their claims and the issuance of a certificate of title
therefor, under the Land Registration Act, to wit:
Xxx
(b) Those who by themselves or through their
predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous,
exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of
agricultural lands of the public domain, under a bona
fideclaim of acquisition of ownership, since June 12,
1945, or earlier, immediately preceding the filing of the
application for confirmation of title except when
prevented by war or force majeure. These shall be
conclusively presumed to have performed all the
conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be
entitled to a certificate of title under the provisions of
this chapter.

Based on these legal parameters, applicants for registration of title under Section 14(1)
must sufficiently establish: (1) that the subject land forms part of the disposable and
alienable lands of the public domain; (2) that the applicant and his predecessors-ininterest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and
occupation of the same; and (3) that it is under a bona fide claim of ownership since
June 12, 1945, or earlier.
Thus, before an applicant can adduce evidence of open, continuous, exclusive and
notorious possession and occupation of the property in question, he must first prove that
the land belongs to the alienable and disposable lands of the public domain. It is
doctrinal that, under the Regalian doctrine, all lands of the public domain pertain to the
State and the latter is the foundation of any asserted right to ownership in

land.Accordingly, the State presumably owns all lands not otherwise appearing to be
clearly within private ownership. To overcome such presumption, irrefutable evidence
must be shown by the applicant that the land subject of registration has been declassified
and now belongs to the alienable and disposable portion of the public domain.[28]
Notably, the Court finds no evidence in this case that would show that the land in
question has been classified as alienable and disposable land of the public domain. The
sketch plan, technical description and the tracing clothing plan that respondent presented
do not show the actual legal status of the land. Hence, the conclusion reached by the CA
that it was no longer necessary for the respondent to prove the alienability of the land in
question on the assumption that he had already completed the thirty-year possessory
requirement was misplaced. The requirements of alienability and possession and
occupation since or earlier under Section 14(1) are indispensable prerequisites to a
favorable registration of his title to the property. Absent one, the application for
registration is materially infirmed.
Since respondent provided no competent and persuasive evidence to show that the
land has been classified as alienable and disposable, then the application for registration
should be denied.
At any rate, after reviewing the documents submitted by the respondent, it is clear
that there was no substantive evidence to show that he complied with the requirement of
possession and occupation since or earlier.
The earliest tax declaration that respondent tried to incorporate in his
Supplemental Motion for Reconsideration does not measure up to the time
requirement.In particular, the tax declaration on the first lot, as shown by Tax
Declaration No. 6932 in the name of Adulfo Calo, only began in 1948.[29] On the
second lot, Tax Declaration No. 3852 in the name of Marcos Azote merely appeared in
1952.[30] While on the third lot, Tax Declaration No. 6891 registered in the name of the
Heirs of Felipe Calo came up in 1948.[31] Unmistakably, the respondent cannot avail of
registration under Section 14(1) of P.D. 1529.
In his Memorandum,[32] respondent proffered that should not the land be
registrable under Section 14(1) of P.D. 1529, it could still be registered under Section
14(2) of P.D. 1529.[33]
He cannot.

The case of Heirs of Mario Malabanan vs. Republic[34] summarized the


distinctions between the legal requisites in applications for registration of title under
Section 14(1) and Section 14(2) of P.D. 1529, to wit:
(1) In connection with Section 14(1) of the Property Registration
Decree, Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act recognizes and confirms
that those who by themselves or through their predecessors in
interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious
possession and occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the
public domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership,
since June 12, 1945 have acquired ownership of, and registrable title
to, such lands based on the length and quality of their possession.
(a) Since Section 48(b) merely requires possession since
12 June 1945 and does not require that the lands should have
been alienable and disposable during the entire period of
possession, the possessor is entitled to secure judicial
confirmation of his title thereto as soon as it is declared
alienable and disposable, subject to the timeframe imposed by
Section 47 of the Public Land Act.[35]
(b) The right to register granted under Section 48(b) of
the Public Land Act is further confirmed by Section 14(1) of
the Property Registration Decree.
(2) In complying with Section 14(2) of the Property Registration
Decree, consider that under the Civil Code, prescription is
recognized as a mode of acquiring ownership of patrimonial
property. However, public domain lands become only patrimonial property not only
with a declaration that these are alienable or disposable. There must also be an
express government manifestation that the property is already patrimonial or no
longer retained for public service or the development of national wealth, under Article
422 of the Civil Code.[36] And only when the property has become
patrimonial can the prescriptive period for the acquisition of
property of the public dominion begin to run.
(a) Patrimonial property is private property of the
government. The person acquires ownership of patrimonial
property by prescription under the Civil Code is entitled to
secure registration thereof under Section 14(2) of the
Property Registration Decree.
(b) There are two kinds of prescription by which
patrimonial property may be acquired, one ordinary and other
extraordinary. Under ordinary acquisitive prescription, a

person acquires ownership of a patrimonial property through


possession for at least ten (10) years, in good faith and with
just title. Under extraordinary acquisitive prescription, a
persons uninterrupted adverse possession of patrimonial
property for at least thirty (30) years, regardless of good faith
or just title, ripens into ownership.

The import of this ruling is clear. Under Section 14(2) of P.D. 1529, before
acquisitive prescription could commence, the property sought to be registered must not
only be classified as alienable and disposable; it must also be expressly declared by the
State that it is no longer intended for public service or the development of the national
wealth or that the property has been converted into patrimonial. Thus, absent an express
declaration by the State, the land remains to be property of public dominion.
WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The November 28, 2008 Decision of
the Court of Appeals is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The Application for
Registration of Title of respondent Jose T. Ching in Land Registration Case No. N-290
is DENIED.
SO ORDERED.
JOSE CATRAL
Associate Justice
WE CONCUR:
RENATO C. CORONA
Chief Justice
ANTONIO T. CARPIO TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO
Associate Justice Associate Justice
Chairperson
DIOSDADO M. PERALTA
Associate Justice

ATTESTATION
I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in
consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts
Division.

ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice
Chairperson, Second Division

CERTIFICATION
Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution and the Division
Chairpersons Attestation, I certify that the conclusions in the above Decision had been
reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the
Courts Division.
RENATO C. CORONA
Chief Justice

Designated as an additional member in lieu of Justice Antonio Eduardo B. Nachura, per Raffle dated .

* *Designated as an additional member in lieu of Justice Roberto A. Abad, per Special


Order No. 905 dated .
[1] Rollo, pp. 33-51. Penned by Associate Justice Elihu A. Ybaez, with Associate
Justices Romulo V. Borja and Mario V. Lopez, concurring.
[2] at 79-99.
[3] at 80.
[4]
[5] Id. at 82.
[6] Id.
[7] at 80-81.
[8] Id. at 79.
[9] Id. at 80.
[10] at 83.
[11] at 83-84.
[12] at 85.
[13] at 79-99.
[14] at 98-99.
[15] at 170.

[16] Land Registration Act.


[17] Property Registration Decree.
[18] Rollo, pp. 35-37.
[19] at 33-51.
[20] at 50-51.
[21] Emphasis supplied.
[22] Rollo, pp. 49-50.
[23] at 9-32.
[24] Id. at 167-198.
[25] at 177-178.
[26] Amending and Codifying the Laws Relative to Registration of Property and for
other Purposes.
[27] Extending the Period of Filing Applications for Administrative Legalization (Free
Patent) and Judicial Confirmation of Imperfect and Incomplete Titles to Alienable
and in the Public Domain under Chapter VII and Chapter VIII of Commonwealth Act
No. 141, as amended, for eleven (11) years commencing .
[28] Republic of the Philippines v. Roche, G.R. No. 175846, July 06, 2010
citing Pagkatipunan v. Court of Appeals, 429 Phil. 377, 386-387 (2002).
[29] Rollo, p. 39.
[30] Id. at 39-40.
[31] at 40.
[32] at 205-237.
[33] (2) Those who have acquired ownership of private lands by prescription under the
provision of existing laws.
[34] Heirs of Mario Malabanan v. Republic, G.R. No. 179987, , 587 SCRA 172, 203.
[35] Section 47, Public Land Act, as amended by Republic Act No. 9176, states:
Section 47. The persons specified in the next following section are hereby granted time, not to extend beyond December 31,
2020 within which to avail of the benefits of this Chapter: Provided, That this period shall apply only where the area applied
for does not exceed twelve (12) hectares: Provided, further, That the several periods of time designated by the President in
accordance with Section Forty-Five of this Act shall apply also to the lands comprised in the provisions of this Chapter, but
this Section shall not be construed as prohibiting any said persons from acting under this Chapter at any time prior to the
period fixed by the President.

[36] Emphasis supplied.